This Week In Palestine-weekly audio report
This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for Thursday, April 6, 2006.
Israel continues to extra-judicially assassinate faction leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in violation of international law, kills a fifteen-year-old boy and injures a mother with her six-month-old baby. Diplomatic representatives from many European countries join Bil'in's protests against the annexation Wall. And the new Palestinian government faces a financial crisis. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Representatives of Austria, Poland, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Spain, France. Sweden, England and the Czech Republic traveled to Bil'in village to join the Popular Committee Against the Wall, the National Committee Against the Wall, and the Israeli Peace Bloc "Gush Shalom," to protest the annexation Wall. Palestinian Legislative Council Member Moheeb Salam Awwad, from Ramallah, was also among the protesters.
As the group headed towards the Wall, Israeli soldiers attacked them with tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets. One villager and one Israeli protestor were injured. Three Israelis and one Australian were arrested. The international diplomats will file reports to their governments regarding the Israeli violations of international law, especially pertaining to the Wall.
On Saturday, Palestinians and Israelis gathered in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, to (quote) "break the sound barrier by drumming through the wall." Video projectors on each side of the Wall enabled the drummers to see each other 'through' the Wall. The event was hosted by Artists Without Walls; a Palestinian and Israeli collective founded in 2004. Their aim is to (quote) "eradicate the lines of separation and the rhetoric of racism through nonviolent creative actions."
Meanwhile a number of Palestinian farmers from Qalqilia testified that Israeli forces are preventing them from reaching their lands, due to a quibble over identity cards. Although many hold identity cards, Israel is demanding get new ones. However, many farmers' names are missing from the official Israeli lists and can't get new cards.
Palestine Child Week
And on Wednesday, hundreds of young people gathered at Bethlehem University to launch Palestinian Child Week. They marched through the streets carrying Palestinian flags and colorful banners with slogans like, "Life without violence is possible." Similar marches took place across the West Bank.
Defense for Children International in Palestine reported that the Israeli army has arrested 230 children since the start of 2006, bringing the number of Palestinian children in Israeli custody to almost 400.
PCHR weekly report
And now, a quick look at the top stories from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights weekly report on Israeli attacks against Palestinians.
The Israeli military killed three Palestinians, including one child. Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Zayed, of Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah, was killed half a kilometer away from the Wall. The Israeli army said they killed him because he was threatening the Wall. One civilian was also shot near Gaza, and an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader was assassinated in Beit Sahour.
The Israeli military invaded the West Bank 46 times, conducting house raids and arresting 84 civilians, including 4 children and 5 girls. The Israeli military continued its siege on the West Bank, imposing new restrictions on movement. On Tuesday, the Israeli military declared the transformation of Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem into a border crossing, closing it off to anyone without an Israeli identity card.
The Israeli military continued to shell the Gaza Strip from land and air, targeting civilian houses and injuring two children. The Israeli military continued its siege on the Gaza Strip, closing off border crossings and keeping out food and medicine. More updates on the siege, next.
UN Gaza Strip Food Crisis as PA Faces Financial Crisis
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has warned that the lack of basic food supplies caused by Israel's closures of Karni crossing has put the Gaza Strip on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. According to the World Bank, if there is no real change in the situation in the Gaza Strip 75% of the residents will be below the poverty line within two years. Currently, 56% of Gazans are below the poverty line, up from 22% in 2000.
This unprecedented level of poverty comes as Israel, the US, and several European countries have coordinated a sanctions policy against the Palestinian Authority since Hamas won the democratic elections two months ago. Israel has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars that belong to the PA, and the other countries including the US have frozen aid, denying Palestinians over $45 million.
But it's not just the government who is affected by the sanctions. Sanctions affect every aspect of life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, down to access to necessities like food and medicine, and the very infrastructure of Palestinian society. For example, UN officials estimate 37% of Gaza workers, or more than 73.000 people, are government employees, people whom Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has said he will be hard pressed to pay their salaries since there is no money.
Invasions & Killings
On Friday, the Israeli military assassinated Abu Yousef Al-Quqa, 44, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees. The military remotely detonated a car fifty meters from his home in Al-Nasr Street in Gaza City, killing him instantly. Al-Quqa had survived three assassination attempts as well as Israeli shelling of his house.
Later that night, three Palestinians were killed and twenty injured, in an exchange of fire between fighters of the Popular Resistance Committees and an unknown armed group, after the spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees accused Palestinian security figures of planning the assassination.
And in response to the assassination, Palestinian factions in Gaza fired homemade shells at Israeli targets with no damage reported. The Israeli military shelled Gaza, killing two and injuring 8 others, including a mother and her six-month-old child.
Also in the West Bank on Monday, Israeli special units assassinated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader and father of four, 31-year-old Raed Obbeyat. Israeli soldiers then dragged Raed Abu Jouraa down the stairs, shot him, and arrested him. The two had been hiding together inside a building in Beit Sahour.
One witness, building resident Ibrahim Abu Farha, said he heard explosions and gunfire but that the army prevented the residents from coming out of their houses.
"What happened is that there was an explosion before the army left. We could hear explosions, noise, and destruction until approximate 5 am until the army withdrew. We went down to find him dead in the parking lot."
Sharif Abu Hadid, A resistance fighter in Bethlehem, says Obayat had been a target of the Israeli military for some time.
" Raed Obbeyat is one of Al-Aqsa brigades; and has been claimed wanted by the Israeli army for five years. The army attempted more than once to arrest and to assassinate him. Members of his family have been arrested several times to force him to turn himself in."
Meanwhile, Israeli police arrested Khalid Abu Arafah, Palestinian minister of Jerusalem Affairs, as he was traveling from Jerusalem. He was released a few hours later. And, the Israeli army continued its invasion of the West Bank city of Nablus for a second day.
The Israeli Army, backed by 40 jeeps and bulldozers invaded Nablus again on Thursday. Fourteen Palestinians and an American reporter were injured when soldiers fired rubber-coated metal bullets on stone throwing residents.
Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief committees of Nablus said civilians are the main target of the Israeli soldiers.
"An Israeli army official said that military operation in Nablus is ongoing and claimed that it targets wanted Palestinians, however we are certain that it targets civilians and their property. Ambulances were also targeted, army fired at ambulances; however thanks to God, none of the crew members were hurt."
During the invasion, the Israeli army arrested seven people whom they allege are members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah. The seven include a girl taken from a nearby village, raising the number of young women arrested in the Nablus area to five since Tuesday.
And that's just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out the International Middle East Media Center website, www.IMEMC.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Terrina Aguilar and Dina Awwad.
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